Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Best and Worst Film Adaptations

I can't believe I'm already back at work and back to the daily grind. I had five days off in a row, and while it was wonderful, it was far too short. Poop.

I didn't get as much writing done as I would have liked, but I did get some done, so I'll take it for what it is. One thing we did do over the weekend was have a Harry Potter marathon. My little nephew came over on Saturday, and both he and my kids (and I) love Harry Potter, and we saw the new one last weekend, so we spent Saturday watching several of them in a row.

Now, I love them all, but I will say that they very a lot in the quality of adaption from the books. There is a different director for almost every single film, and while the style stays somewhat similar, there are differences. Anyway, point is it got me thinking about adaptations of books I loved into films. It is a deep and complex topic, which is a lot of fun to think about. Too bad I have only a few minutes here.

So I'm going to talk briefly about some of the best and worst adaptations of all time, IMHO. For best, there are several options, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris was an excellent book and an amazing film, and the adaptation was pretty accurate. I would probably rate it higher if the other films in the series were not so terrible. Contact by Carl Sagan is another good example. The book was amazing, and the film was very good, though probably not 100% accurate.

That being said my favorite adaptation of all time is the Peter Jackson/New Line production of the Lord of the Rings. All three films were incredible, and excellently adapted, but I think that the Fellowship of the Ring is the best of the three. I realize it takes a hit in accuracy for skipping the entire Tom Bombadil and River Daughter section, but I actually think that worked quite well in the film. Nearly everything else was pretty close to the novel, and they included so much, which is rather difficult considering the sheer volume of the tale.

This was probably the most anticipated adaptation ever, and with the amount of hype that went along with the production, it's essentially nothing short of amazing that it turned out as well as it did. I remember having a picture book with a read along cassette of LOTR as a kid, so I had been waiting for this FOREVER, and apart from a couple of cheesy Legolas hollywood shield and trunk surfing moments, it did not fail to please.

(this is not the right product, but it's the closest picture I could find)

Moving on before I go on forever I should cover some bad adaptations. I'm not exactly sure what went wrong with The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. The books are very good, and I actually thought the film wasn't bad, but for some reason it seems to have flopped because I have not heard a thing about any sequels (the books are a trilogy).

I tried to look up some other examples but they're either books and movies that I loved (some people online apparently think Kubrick's version of Stephen King's The Shining was terrible) or I haven't read the book. So rather than spending any more time on this than it deserves I'll just tell you what I think was the worst film adaptation in recent history: Eragon.

I know some of you thought the book was completely derivative, which I'll admit it was, but I still loved it. And the film? Jeremy Irons? John Malkovich? Djimon Hounsou? It should have been outstanding. Instead it was terrible, nothing like the book, flopped at the box office, and ruined any chances of the sequels ever being made. Thankfully the books are doing fine and the video game was okay.

So that's it for today. What are the best and worst adaptions ever in your opinion? I'm especially curious to hear from film buffs like Alex and Dezmond.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AMC's The Walking Dead

It's Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This will be my last post for several days. I should return to blogging on Tuesday, November 30th. It's going to be nice to have 5 days outside this hell hole office for once. I plan on getting a lot of writing and critiquing done.

I would like to take a moment to thank each and every person who has ever visited my blog. Whether you follow, comment, read, lurk or try your very best to hock viagra I love you all. Seriously. Okay maybe not the spammers so much, but they need love too. Mostly I love you writers. You people are so giving, so kind, so helpful and so supportive. When I first set out to write a novel I knew not a single other serious writer. Now I know, literally, hundreds.

You people RAWK!

Ahem. Anyway, back to the topic at hand: my favorite new TV Show! What better topic for the "Friday" before the holidays, right?

So, my favorite new show is The Walking Dead, on AMC. I believe it comes on at 10PM on Sundays, but ever since we got a DVR I'm completely spoiled and out of touch about actual air times. Americans and our luxuries, no?

The Walking Dead is a show about a Zombie Apocalypse. It's set in Atlanta, where I live, and actually filmed on location. I'll go over my complaints first, since there are very few.
  • For whatever reason AMC does not offer an HD signal, not in my area and not on my provider (AT&T U-Verse). Considering how many HD channels I have to pay for that I never watch, this is a bit of a bitch.
  • Occasionally the acting and or writing comes across as a little stilted. None of the lead actors on this show have a lot of experience or are well known, but I suspect this feeling is more based on occaional poor writing. Most of the writing like the plot and character develepmont, as well as pacing and tension is excellent, but every so often the dialogue comes across as a little forced.
  • Commercials. I know, it's not fair. This isn't HBO, but I think I've gotten spoiled by shows like Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, and Entourage. I know they have to pay the bills but I HATE friggin' commercials. Yes I have it recorded and I can skip them but it's a pain. There is a reason I am willing to pay for HBO.
Now, on to what I love about this show. There are many things, so ... screw it, I'm still going with a bullet point list because I love bullet point lists.
  • It's a Zombie Apocalypse! I mean come on, who doesn't love Zombies? They're awesome, but this show also takes the whole thing quite seriously, which is really cool (not that there is anything wrong with taking a humorous approach to the shambling masses). And nothing against Twilight, but it's great to see horror go scary again.
  • The setting and cinematography. It's filmed on location in Atlanta, which is near to home, but I also love that they use no CGI (as far as I can tell) and the angles and shots they have featuring the city (and from the skyline) are gorgeous.
  • The makeup. As I said there is no CGI. Every Zombie hoard is made up of real extras (that means actors) who are costumed and made up beautifully. You can also win a chance to be a Zombie on the show on the AMC website (I think).
  • The characters. There's a bit of an ensemble cast, which as my crit group knows, is something I love. Obviously some characters play a much larger role than others, but they're all compelling so far.
  • The network. Okay, I'll admit that I've only watched Mad Men a few times, but AMC seems to be a network on the rise to me. And, although it's not premium, they somehow get away with more violence, more swearing, and more adult content than broadcast networks.
  • Based on a comic book series. 'Nuff said.
Ah well, I could probably go on, but it's Friday, or something like that.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone, even if you live in France, or Greece (you two know who you are), and make sure you get enough BRAAAAAAAAAIIIINSSSS!!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JD's Query for LOST AND FOUND Critiqued

Before we get started I just want to say thanks to Justine for being the first person to ever reach out to me in the forums. She was the first person to ever critique my query way back when and it's been a pleasure to be her friend ever since and watch her skill at crafting queries grow immensely.

In fact I think this query here, that we're looking at this week, is an excellent example. The query is already very good, and along with an awesome premise and some great writing would probably earn her several requests. But we're here today to try to make it the very best it can be, so I'll try to nit-pick it apart a little.

Here goes:

Twelve-year-old Kelly Moore is determined to do something someone her age has never done before: win a National Barrel Racing Championship. All she has to do is win the State Finals and she’ll be on her way. When her beloved horse, Rocket, and seven other horses are stolen right after she competes at the finals, Kelly freaks.

This opening paragraph is really good. I do think there are a couple of things missing though. I think the second half of your first sentence makes for a strong hook. What would make it even better is just a little more of Kelly's character, and maybe a teeny bit of backstory. Is she a good kid? Straight A student? A loner? Is her family life happy? Mom and dad divorced? I think from the info you give that we can probably infer that this a good girl from a decent home, but it would be great to know a little more about her ASAP.

Otherwise your setup of the conflict and the stakes is excellent. Well done.

Kelly’s biggest fear is that her horse is on its way to the slaughterhouse. She hangs missing horse flyers everywhere and questions everyone. No luck. When she accuses a barn manager of theft and breaks in to his office in an attempt to prove his guilt, Kelly’s gets a dose of parental retribution. But she won’t give up.

This is also good. You're expanding on the conflict and the players without going overboard. One thing I think you should consider here is injecting a little more voice. Kelly may be a good kid but she might refer to being "freaked" about her poor house and the slaughterhouse, and she might have a flashy adjective for the barn manager. Is he "nasty", "smelly", "mean old"? I know those are all kind of lame, but I bet you can come up with something better. Ask Em!

Kelly’s nemesis, Missy, had her horse stolen too. And Missy’s bound and determined to not let Kelly leave her out of the chase. Kelly finally catches a hot lead and does the unthinkable: hides in the horse thief’s trailer with Missy at her side. They find the horses but get caught by the bad guys in the process. No one’s future is looking bright when a fire engulfs the barn they’re in.

Just a couple things here. I actually think this is pretty darn good too. I like how the stakes get raised here and how the old nemesis gets involved but I got a little confused when you jumped from hiding out in the trailer to getting caught inside a burning barn. Obviously it makes perfect sense in the story, but it felt too quick for me in the query. You might be able to leave the burning barn out, after all you don't want to give away everything. Or you can keep it in. This query is certainly short enough to leave you room, maybe just transition into that climax a little differently if you keep it.

Kelly must put her dislike of Missy aside while they work together. If she doesn’t, the girls won’t be able to save themselves—or their beloved horses—before it’s too late for them all.

I actually love this. This is one of the best summarys, clarifying the choice that Kelly must make, that I've seen in a while. I would keep this.

LOST AND FOUND, a middle grade novel, is complete at 31,000 words.

Obviously you've got more room for housekeeping and personalization if needed, but this critique is about the meat anyway.

So. Well done Justine! It's so cool to see how far your query skills have come. I wish you the best of luck in submitting this fun little tale.

What do you guys think? Any suggestions for adding more character to her hook and making that first sentence pitch pop a little more?

Dear Justine

Hey JD! So sorry but I have to take my daughter to the doctor this morning. I'm still doing your post and I still want to help but I just had to put this up to let you know my critique should be up soon. Hopefully before noon, eastern.

Have a great morning until then! Thanks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Justine Dell's Query for LOST AND FOUND

This week we're going to be doing another query workshop here on the QQQE. We're going to be breaking down Justine Dell's query for her MG novel, LOST AND FOUND. If you don't know Justine, you should definitely visit her blog and become a follower. She's been on hiatus lately, but once she comes back her Grammar Police posts are really useful.

Anyway, today I'm just going to be sharing her query, saving the feedback until tomorrow. Feel free to say hello, or ask any questions you might have, but please also save your own feedback for tomorrow as well. Thanks!

Now, Justine's query:

Twelve-year-old Kelly Moore is determined to do something someone her age has never done before: win a National Barrel Racing Championship. All she has to do is win the State Finals and she’ll be on her way. When her beloved horse, Rocket, and seven other horses are stolen right after she competes at the finals, Kelly freaks.

Kelly’s biggest fear is that her horse is on its way to the slaughterhouse. She hangs missing horse flyers everywhere and questions everyone. No luck. When she accuses a barn manager of theft and breaks in to his office in an attempt to prove his guilt, Kelly’s gets a dose of parental retribution. But she won’t give up.

Kelly’s nemesis, Missy, had her horse stolen too. And Missy’s bound and determined to not let Kelly leave her out of the chase. Kelly finally catches a hot lead and does the unthinkable: hides in the horse thief’s trailer with Missy at her side. They find the horses but get caught by the bad guys in the process. No one’s future is looking bright when a fire engulfs the barn they’re in.

Kelly must put her dislike of Missy aside while they work together. If she doesn’t, the girls won’t be able to save themselves—or their beloved horses—before it’s too late for them all.

LOST AND FOUND, a middle grade novel, is complete at 31,000 words.

Please don't forget to come back tomorrow to see what I think about this query, and to give some of your own feedback. I realize it's a holiday week, and blogging should be slow, but let's give Justine all the help we can - tomorrow.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Morning Darks

That's supposed to be a play on words. Like the opposite of Friday Night Lights, but what's the opposite of Friday? Monday? I'm sure as hell not talking about Monday, not on a Friday. Er - wait, a, second ... I just did, didn't I?

Damn. Sorry about that. Never mind anyway. The title of the post means nothing. This is just a random stream on unconsciousness because it's still dark outside and no self respecting person in this timezone should be awake just yet.

Welcome to all the new followers and commenters, especially those of you from yesterday. That was an amazing post and I'm really glad to see how well it worked out. Jessica is awesome and it's so nice to be able to call her a friend. It's funny how followers and comments go sometimes. I was stuck at 398 for like two weeks, and now I've gained almost 20 more in just a couple days. Welcome one and all, I truly do love your visits.

So, back to Jessica for a moment. Obviously her novel STRING BRIDGE, which comes out next year on Lucky Press, in November, is very exciting, but I completely forgot to mention (no idea why), that Jessica Bell, Nicole Ducleroir, and myself will all be having our short stories published in the Static Movement Press anthology Literary Foray. There is no date set yet because the editor, Chris Bartholomew is still collecting short stories. If you're interested in submitting, please visit Static Movement's website. Still though, isn't that exciting? It's almost as cool as being agent mates, or it might be even cooler, I'm not sure yet.

You can read my two short stories, and one other that is going into a different anthology, on the My Writing page at the top of this blog. I can't believe I'm being this unprofessional about it, but I don't have links to Jess and Nicole's stories. I can link you to more info about Nicole's short stories in general, here, but Jess doesn't have hers on hers blog. I'll add them to this post if they want me to, but it also may be better for sales if they're kept secret. Mwah hah hah ... yeah.

So the only other thing I want to cover this morning is my buddy T. R. Konrad. TR is a guy I know in real life. He's a lot like me in that he's always loved to read, and often thought about writing, but only recently decided to start taking it seriously. He's not sure about novels, but he loves to write short stories and has decided to seek publication of some kind. Those of you who know me know that I'm all about the writing community, and when it comes to writers helping writers there is nothing I find more satisfying.

So please visit the blog of T. R. Konrad, and read some of his creative writing. His blog is brand new, so it's a little sparse, and his writing still has that raw edge to it that can be so exciting in a new writer. Also be sure to follow his blog and comment, because I have explained to him that this whole blogging thing is all about give and take, so if you visit him, follow and comment, you will gain a loyal reader of your blog as well.

And what's the point of writing on the internet if no one sees it? If you don't share your work with others you're not writing, you're just writing stuff down.

Have a great day. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Interview with Author Jessica Bell

I don't know if the rest of you feel this way, but I consider an author to be something a little different than a writer. An author is published. And author is a professional writer. I don't consider myself an author, yet, but Facebook made me put "author" in front of my name because they wouldn't accept "writer".

Jessica Bell doesn't have to worry about stuff like that anymore.

Her debut novel STRING BRIDGE, is going to be published by Lucky Press, next year. Crap, I can't remember if she knows the release date yet. Jess? Please put that in a comment if you have that info.

Jessica is also really awesome. There is a funny little story about our friendship too. When we "met" I was a complete blogging noob. I had maybe 10 followers and probably only 3 people who actually read my blog. One of them was Jessica. And she has the coolest screen name too, as I'm sure you know "The Alliterative Allomorph". She commented on my blog for like two weeks in a row. I loved her comments and thought she was awesome, but for some unknown reason, had never visited her blog. I tell myself it was because I just didn't get it yet, but really I think I was just an idiot at the time. So long story short, Jessica had the balls to email me and ask me WTF?

We've been good friends ever since.

So, this interview is long. Good, but long, so we might as well get to it. Here goes:

When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?

I played with the idea when I was about fifteen, when I started getting into literature at school. I was already writing a lot of lyrics and poetry then. When I started university I thought about it more seriously, but lacked the talent because I was too used to writing lyrics and having the emotion of those lyrics embellished with music. I just couldn’t make my words sing without the music. Then I moved overseas, was isolated on a small island for two years (story too long to go into), and began hammering away at my first novel. Which I eventually erased, never to be retrieved again. I hated it. Don’t regret deleting it at all. When I finally got off the island in 2005, I started another novel – the one that’s finally getting published. Yay!

How long have you been writing seriously?

I guess since 2005.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

Being alone. And not being judged for my weird thoughts, because for some reason society allows us to be weird in writing and art. Don’t you think?

I do!

What is the most difficult part?

Being true to myself. I doubt myself all the time. You know, I think, ‘yeah, sure, I feel this way, and I can probably find the words to express it, but will anyone understand?’

What kind of band were you in, and did you play lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, or something else?

It was like a rock band, except not the usual set-up. I played guitar, lead and rhythm, what ever was right for the song, as I was the only guitar. There were drums/congas (again depending on song), and violin and cello. The cello always played the bass lines. It was one of the best periods of my life having that band.

Did you ever release any albums?

We made a lot of demo CDs, but never released any. We did play a lot of gigs though, and also won a few band competitions.

If you had to meet one of your characters in a dark alley who would you last want to meet, and why?

Er, I dunno. I like all my characters. Even the majorly flawed ones can be easily persuaded to calm down if they decided to psychologically flip out. Wait … there is one character(s) that gets mentioned very briefly who we never meet, in String Bridge. The rock-venue mafia that slashed Melody’s husband’s chest. But that happened in the past and is not a part of the plot.

And which character would you want there with you for protection?

Melody’s mother. She’s got a mean slap and yelling voice.

Can you tell us a little more about STRING BRIDGE than what is revealed in your query (when you shared it on my blog as DEAD IN THE CORNER OF MY BEDROOM)? For example, a little about your characters, where the idea of them came from, what sparked your initial idea, and how you decided what genre it would be?

Woah! That’s a huge question. Ok. This means I have to let you in on some personal stuff …

My life sparked the idea, however, the situation eventually turned into something completely different from my life. Yes, it’s located in Athens and I’m a musician, but these are the differences: One: I may have a passion for music, but I don’t dream to be a rock star – I dream to be an author. Two: I’m not married with a four year old daughter. – I have a fiancé and a dog. Three: I’ve never had to choose between a corporate career and following a dream, because I’ve always been certain that following my dream will come first (after loved-ones of course).

I didn’t decide the genre until I’d written it and had to analyze what it was. I still can’t pigeon-hole it. The best description is literary women’s fiction.

Main characters of String Bridge:

Melody: A thirty year old wife and mother who lost sight of her dream to become a professional musician amidst a mountain of domesticity, motherhood and corporate ladder-climbing. A life she never asked for but somehow let herself fall into. She’s tries to find herself again, but becomes neglectful of her family. By the time she realizes they are more important to her than music, it might be too late.

Alex: Melody’s husband. A music events manager who convinced Melody to give up playing gigs after their daughter was born. Melody resents him for it – for obvious reasons. He resents Melody for putting up a wall. She used to tell him everything. Now she hides everything and their love is disintegrating. But instead of telling her how he feels, he goes and does something to make it worse. Which in turn causes a chain of events that could have been avoided had they communicated properly in the first place.

Tessa: The daughter. Four years old. The only person in Melody’s world she would do anything for. She likes to cut off her Barbies’ hair, and lick her dog’s face. Melody/Tessa encounters in the novel show a totally different side of Melody.

Betty: Melody’s mother. Suffers from bipolar disorder. Affects Melody’s existence in ways I can’t describe in a few sentences.

James: Melody’s father. Timid. Afraid to speak his thoughts. Does everything Betty tells him to. Kind-hearted. Gentle. But very passive, and easily walked all over.

Are you working on any other projects right now? If so, could you tell us a little about them? If not, have you got any ideas marinating?

Yes. A novel called BITTER LIKE ORANGE PEEL, about a woman in search for a father she has never met. Her search reveals secrets which threaten the solid family relationships she already has. You can read about it HERE.

I've read excepts of both these novels and just want to interject for a sec to say that Jessica's writing is ... incredible.

Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with a small independent publisher like Lucky Press, and what it’s like to work with an editor without an agent. I know you’ve written about this some on your blog, but is there anything new you can add here?

I’ve never had an agent so I can’t really compare. I’ve just this week signed the contract so I can’t add anything more than what I’ve written on my blog. Sorry!

No problem!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I love to explore relationships. My stories are more about emotions, and dealing with the mundane of the every day than exciting plot lines. That might sound boring on the surface, but I’ve really tried to write ‘the everyday’ in a way that readers can experience it on a deeper, more psychoanalytical level. I hope I achieve this. I can’t wait to get feedback on what people think of my writing when my debut is published. This makes it hard to summarize my work, too. Summaries of my work are BORING. The events, plot points, really mean nothing. What is exciting is in ‘the how’. And this is impossible to explain in a couple of paragraphs. Which peeves me to no end because I can’t find a way to pull people into my work without going into a lot detail. Thankfully, Lucky Press asked for the detail!

Fun Random Questions for The End (I stole this interview idea from Jen at Unedited, though I made my own questions up). Which would you rather be?

Joan Jett or JK Rowling? Joan Jett!

Eating chocolate or drinking wine? Wine.

Sunning yourself on an island in the Mediterranean or sailing near the Great Barrier Reef? Well, I’ve done plenty of the sunning in the Med in my lifetime, so sailing near the Reef it is for sure!

Writing poetry or singing music? You have GOT to be kidding me!?! This is near impossible!!! Ack … writing poetry if the singing you’re talking about is live in front of an audience. I hate performing live. And singing music, if it’s my own (so I get to sing my own lyrics – ha!) alone in my bedroom.

A Wallaby or a Platypus? Wallaby.

Eating a vegemite sandwich or shrimp on the barbie?

LOL! My answer is in this link:


Wow, hilarious!

Thanks so much Jess! I really appreciate you coming by and answering my questions. It's been so fun to know you these last several months and I'm so excited to see you getting your debut novel published!

Please say hi in the comments and let Jessica know if you all have any other questions.

P.S. My daughter Kylie is playing Bookanista Junior today over at Lisa and Laura's blog, and reviewing The Replacement from an actual YA perspective. Please stop by and say hi, and then visit all the Bookanista's!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Most Sympathetic Villain Ever

In honor of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I we will be discussing how Professor Severus Snape is the most sympathetic and compelling villain in all of literature. Yes, I have posted about this a little bit before, but not like this.

This applies to the entire post, so stop here if you've been on another planet for the last decade and haven't read all 7 Harry Potter novels.

Now let's get some things straight first. We're all aware that Snape is a complete and utter prat, a right awful git even, who is known to be a bit thick sometimes (for more of his faults, please see Ronald Weasley). He was a tall, thin man with long greasy black hair, bad skin, hooked nose and crooked teeth. A bit like the old witch with the apple in Snow White (except for the hair). But in spite of Snape's drawbacks there are several reasons that readers sympathize with him.

These will be in no particular order:

1) His love for Lily Potter (Evans): Pathetic, embarrassing, awkward? Yes. But you can't blame Snivelus. By all accounts Lily was a beautiful, kind and caring person, and a "witch of singular talent." You can't really blame young Severus for falling for her, especially since they met long Before Hogwart's and were both outcasts in their own way.

2) His talent for potions AND spells: You can't deny that Snape was one of the most brilliant wizards who ever lived. He's no Dumbledore or Tom Riddle, but of all the other witches and wizards in Harry Potter's world, none is described as being as well known for inventing his own powerful spells as Professor Snape.

3) His instinct to protect Draco Malfoy: When Draco is tasked with murdering Dumbledore Snape cannot help but agree to protect him, and even complete the job for him if necessary. He cares so much for Draco (who let's face it, annoying as he is is just a scared and troubled young man) that he agrees to the Unbreakable Vow, thus forfeiting his own life if he does not do as he's agreed. This seems pretty villainous at the time, but we later find out that he was asked by Dumbledore to do this.

4) His repeated failures to take over the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher: Come on, who doesn't love to watch someone as irritating as Snape is (especially in the early books) lose out on something he wants so badly over and over again. It's pretty adorable really.

5) His abuse at the hands of James and Sirius: Don't get me wrong, I love Sirius Black. He is one of my very favorite characters, EVER (it doesn't hurt in the least that he was played by possibly the most talented actor who has ever lived in the films, Gary Oldman). But ... he was a bit of a dick when he was in school. So was Harry's dad, James. They were very cruel to Snape. And come on, we're mostly all writers here, who wasn't a bit of a social pariah in school? Kids can be pretty cruel sometimes.

6) His willingness to act as a double agent against Lord Voldemort throughout the Second Wizarding War: Let's get one thing straight. Voldemort was a scary mofo. He was as evil as they come. And powerful. It takes great courage to oppose such as man as Harry and Dumbledore and many others did, but it takes a different kind of bravery, and honor, to serve such a man to his face, even as you undermine him behind his back. Severus Snape had the largest pair of diamond hard balls that any character from literature has ever possessed. EVER.

7) Dumbledore's absolute and unshakable trust in his loyalty: Of course this is proven to be fully warranted in the end, but let's discuss it a little further. Snape is pretty annoying throughout most of the books but towards the end we do begin to learn that Dumbledore trusts him absolutely. There is no wiser man or better judge of character in the history of the world (muggle, wizarding or otherwise) than Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, so if you've got his trust, you've got my sympathy.

8) Harry names one of his sons after him, because that son has Harry's mother, Lily's exact eyes: There is no question that Harry hates Severus for most of this entire tale, with a passion. Harry is a passionate but sometimes petulant young man, and it isn't until the very end, and the epilogue, that his true respect for Snape is revealed.

9) He was in Slytherin, but has an awesome Death Eater tattoo: You really can't help but feel bad for anyone who was ever sorted into Slytherin house, at least a little bit. Besides, even though it's meaning is quite evil, that Death Eater tattoo is pretty damn cool.

10) "I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.": This has got to be one of the most famous introductory lines of dialogue ever. It was incredible writing already in the book, but when Alan Rickman delivered the line in the film, this character and the sinister romance of his story was solidified for people everywhere.

I could go on. This is one of the greatest stories ever told, and Professor Severus Snape is one of the most powerfully compelling characters in it. Instead of going on arguing my point, I'll just share some fun quotes with you. Some of these are directly from the books, some are slightly adapted because of the films.

"[Snape] was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
—Harry Potter

Snape: "…it is not up to you to find out what the Dark Lord is saying to his Death Eaters."
Harry Potter: "No — that's your job, isn't it?"
Snape: "Yes, Potter. That is my job."

Dolores Umbridge: "You applied first for Defence Against the Dark Arts post, is that correct?"
Severus Snape: "Yes."
Dolores Umbridge: "But you were unsuccessful?"
Severus Snape: "…Obviously."

Dumbledore: "After all this time, Severus?"
Snape: "Always."
— Dumbledore and Snape discussing Snape's continued love for Lily Evans in Snape's last memory, as viewed by Harry Potter.

And now, just to lighten the mood a little, I'll leave you with this:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blog Tour

Today is my turn to take part in Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blog Tour. It's really cool to have an opportunity to be a part of this because not only is Stephen really nice and very thoughtful, but this is one of the most successful blog tours I've witnessed. Stephen has taken the time to write an excellent guest post for me, so I'm just going to let him take it away!

Do you use morals, ethics, and social matters in your stories that manifest in a lesson learned at the conclusion?

This is a topic I love to discuss. As a writer, I think it is vital to weave into the plot concepts of morals and ethics that challenge the characters to do things they normally would not do. They will need to somehow find a way to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. The result will be some kind of lesson learned. Many great authors and poets do this, some to a larger degree than others. Often (not always, example is the movie Se7en) we witness good triumphing over evil. However, a suspense thriller or a fantasy adventure should incorporate more than merely a battle of good vs. evil, where good ultimately triumphs in the end. Yawn.

There are a plethora of issues a writer can use, such as economic, ethical, human, legal, moral, religious, rights, and social matters that can question the core values of your character(s). These can be fantastic opportunities to introduce conflict, and conflict is necessary to drive the plot forward.

Question: as we address one or more of these matters, do we subtly incorporate some kind of lesson or question our present value system? And if so, what happens when we approach the end of our story? Do you tend to forget about your threaded morals and ethics, or are there consequences to your characters’ actions? Think back on what they did, conspired, and manipulated. What did they sow? Will they reap the whirlwind? If not, then you may be making your ending anti-climatic. It could be boring. Predictable (the worse scenario). Nothing special.

I note everything my bad guys think, say, and do. Ultimately, they will have to pay for their sins. They will need to be held accountable for their actions, either in this life or the next (think the ending of the movie Ghost where the bad guys are killed and their souls drug off to hell by dark evil spirits). So think about what you weave into your writings. Will they manifest at the end of your story in the form of judgment? If not, then what good is introducing morals and ethics in the first place?

I’m currently working on the ending of Escalation, the third installment of the Breakthrough trilogy. I’m having so much fun with this. There are the antagonist and his five followers as well as other bad guys and girls introduced throughout the series. They’ve done a lot of bad things. Killed many innocent people. Now I have to ask myself, how will judgment be meted out to each individual? Will a few escape justice (actually, I already know). It’s a good problem to have. This was a struggle I loved.

Question: Do you use morals and ethics to achieve a lesson learned? Do you think about the consequences for your characters actions at the conclusion? Do you mete out justice and judgment, such as a guilty verdict in a court of law, the bad guy being killed by a cop, or the antagonist ending up dead and ultimately in a place of eternal torment?

Or do you feel lessons learned are too preachy and the lines of ethics and morals are too blurred to come to definitive conclusions? Or perhaps life’s not fair, so why try to tie a nice pretty red ribbon around the ending.

Please join me tomorrow as I visit the over-caffeinated fiction writer making the journey towards publication... one espresso at a time. Join Talli Roland and I as we talk about Character Conflict and Team Dynamics. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Stephen Tremp is author of the action thriller Breakthrough . You can visit Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs .

If you feel this blog is worthy, go ahead and make my day. Retweet it.

Wow. Excellent work Stephen, thanks so much for sharing this with me and my readers. Readers? Questions or other thoughts? Please share them in the comments and don't forget to say hello and thank Stephen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Listening to Edits: Don't Let 'Em Get You Down

This post has been removed at the request of the guest author.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Step Nine

Hi. My name is Matthew and I'm a blogaholic.

Beneath everything else this is a blog for writers. The idea behind it all is to show other novice writers great examples of query letters - ones that worked, and ones that didn't. But that being said I really love it that I can spew about travel, sushi, TV, and books, or even other inane personal stuff, and you people will still laugh or cry alongside me (hey, I can pretend), and more importantly, still accept me for who I am.

Today I am on Step Eight.

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Last time I talked about the only people I had harmed through my ignorance of publishing. Mostly it's just agents who had to read my terrible queries, and my CPs who struggled through many awkward phrases in my WIP. I'm making amends to all of them by continuing to improve my craft. I read books on writing, and I practice writing new and different things, and I improve by critiquing others work, but you know what really improves my writing the most?

Corresponding with all of you, and talking to you about writing. About techniques you use. About how you stay motivated. About how you come up with ideas. About what kind of alcohol you like the best. About what kind of snacks you enjoy while writing. I give a shit about all of it, and all of it makes me a better writer.

Soon I may share about Step Ten.

Disclaimer: This post is satirical. It is not meant to offend anyone, or to belittle the integrity of 12 Step Programs anywhere, which have saved countless lives since their inception.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Five Cities to See Before I ...

So yesterday Ted pointed out to me that none of my destinations were vibrant romantic cities with rich histories. He was right. I called them natural wonders, but he corrected me, stating that 4 of the 5 destinations were actually ruins. He was right again.

So today I am going to cover 5 cities that I feel I must see before I ... hit the NY times best seller list (thanks Nate). Okay, maybe shortly after, but that's not the point! To the cities!

Ding! If I were filthy rich and could live anywhere in the world it would be London. No I wouldn't stay there year round, but still. The history. The culture. The diversity. I mean come on? Westminster Abbey? Big Ben? The Tower of London? Trafalgar Square? Piccadilly Circus?

What is a Piccadilly Circus anyway? Talli?

I have always been fascinated with Japanese culture, especially with the Samurai and Shogun of feudal Japan. During that period Kyoto was the imperial capital. It still contains some of the most beautiful and well preserved ancient architecture in the world. About 20% of Japan's National Treasures and 14% of Important Cultural Properties exist in the city proper. Kamigamo Shrine. Shimogamo Shrine. Nijo Castle. The Ryoan-Ji Zen Rock Garden.

Plus, Iwatayama Monkey Park. Look this one up. Have you ever heard of a cooler place? Nathan?

Prague is a central European city full of rich history, and according to Ted, one of the most beautiful cities on the continent, if not in the world. It's been the seat of two different Holy Roman Emperors, and has been the economic and cultural center of the Czech state for over 11 centuries. It is also host to some of the most amazing architecture in Europe, from church spires to castle walls, and even modern museums. There is much to see in Prague.

Plus some of the best beer in the world comes from there. Ever heard of a Pilsner?

Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter I and was the capital of the Russian Empire for hundreds of years until the Bolshevik Revolution. It is sometimes referred to as Russia's most western city, and is a large port on the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. Saint Petersburg, also formally known as Leningrad, is home to The Hermitage, the largest art museum in the world.

Can't get much cooler than that.

I don't actually know much about Reykjavik, but something has always fascinated my about an island in the middle of the bitterly cold North Atlantic, so removed from the rest of the world. This city is the northernmost capital of any sovereign state on planet Earth. Ted also names it as one of the most interesting cities in the world, and Ted knows, he's pretty much my go to guy on all things international.

Besides, who doesn't like Bjork?

So that's it. Man these posts take a long time to put together. Whew. So what are your dream cities to visit? You can steal some of mine, and you don't have to come up with five.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ten Places to See Before I ...

Josin's comment on yesterday's post about the photo of Nathan got me thinking. In it he is standing in the foreground with beautiful Machu Picchu in the background. That is absolutely one of the places I want to see before I ... evolve into pure energy, or get bitten by flesh eating zombies.

Hey! It could happen.

So in light of yesterday's heavy post, today's is going to be something a little more fun, with photos! And maybe a double rainbow for good measure. Okay, maybe not. So without further ado here are ten places I would really love to visit, in no particular order (excpet for Machu Picchu being first, because it sort of brought this whole thing up):

P.S. I'm going to be stealing summaries of these places from Wikipedia because I don't have time to write my own, and just in case one of you hasn't heard of one of these places. I'll link to the article for credit and so you can read more if you like.

Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu) – "Old Mountain", pronounced [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpixtʃu]) – is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level.[1][2] It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

Angkor Wat (Khmer: អង្គរវត្ត) is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation — first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. It is the world's largest religious building.[1] The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.

Wudang Mountain
The Wudang Mountains (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Wǔdāng Shān), also known as Wu Tang Shan or simply Wudang, are a small mountain range in the northwestern part of Hubei Province of People's Republic of China, just to the south of the city of Shiyan.

In years past, the mountains of Wudang were known for the many Taoist monasteries to be found there, monasteries which became known as an academic centre for the research, teaching and practice of meditation, Chinese martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, Taoist agriculture practices and related arts.

The Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) is a waterfall located in southern Africa on the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls are some of the largest in the world.

Mesa Verde National Park is a U.S. National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. It was created in 1906 to protect some of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the world. The park occupies 81.4 square miles (211 km2) (211 square kilometers) near the Four Corners and features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the Ancestral Puebloan people, sometimes called the Anasazi.

Okay. Dude, I'm cutting this to five. This is taking way too long. Maybe I'll do five more tomorrow. Any places you'd like to see?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Bittersweet Goodbye.

I really wanted to write about this yesterday, but there was no time between work and family. That's okay. What I have to say will mean just as much today.

As I'm sure most of you have already heard, Nathan Bransford, AKA Agent Orange, and sometimes known around here on the QQQE as Him, is leaving agenting.

When I first read Nathan's post about his decision to move on I was devastated. It hit me like a ton of e-readers. You might wonder why it would matter so much to me. You might ask yourself why would I take it personally. To understand that you would have to know more about my story. And I don't mean the story that I'm writing. I mean my story.

I won't go into all the gory details but I had a pretty rough life, especially in my teens and early twenties. I got myself into a lot of trouble but the thing that really matters here is that I stopped writing. I had always loved reading and writing and anything that was even remotely related to the English language. When I was in school I wrote poetry, short stories, essays, articles for the school paper, even songs for girls, and I always excelled in English and Literature classes, charming every instructor I ever had with my passion for the written word. Then after high school life got in the way and I gave it up. I can't quite pin down one single reason but I didn't write a thing creatively for over a decade.

Then two years ago the bug infected me again and I set out to write a novel. When the story took me it ruled my life for 9 months or so, pounding out thousands of words a day until I had possibly the longest first draft of any aspiring novelist (okay maybe not, but those of you who know me know my first draft was LONG). I line edited it and did some simple but lazy revisions and then jumped right into querying. I didn't know any other serious writers so I had no one to show my novel to and I had never even heard of a query letter until after I finished the story. I had no idea how unprepared I was to enter the publishing world.

Those of you who know this blog know a lot of the stories from my first round of querying. They are mostly pretty terrible. I got a few requests, and did hear some very kind words about my writing, but the overall sentiment came down to "you're talented, but this needs a lot of work, and no one can represent something of this length." There were also some harsher statements. I got frustrated. Eventually I gave up. I spent several months last winter angry and in despair. Something that I had always dreamed of, even if only in the very back of my mind, now seemed impossible.

Then one day last spring, just out of curiosity, I was browsing literary agent blogs. I can't remember how I found it but I discovered Nathan Bransford's blog. Then I found his forums. I read his posts about 10 Commandments for the Happy Writer, How to Write a Query Letter, Examples of Good Queries, and many others. I couldn't believe it. After all the cold cruelty, or at least professional detachment I had felt from every other literary agent out there, here was one who was human. I felt his passion, his optimism, his kindness. I was inspired. I joined the forums, posted my query for critique, did my best to critique some other writer's queries, and suddenly I was making friends, with other writers. Suddenly there was hope. I began to connect with people who knew what they were talking about, people who had the same dreams I had, and who knew how much courage it took to pursue those dreams.

I started this blog, inpsired by Nathan's desire to give back to the writing community, I wanted to help other writers avoid the same mistakes I made. I began by posting all my terrible early queries so that people could see what not to do, and then it evolved into posting the successful queries of other blogging writers I had met, some even published or soon to be.

I got to know Nathan better. He is a well known internet phenomenon, and I'm sure he corresponds with thousands of people every week, but he took the time to respond to every direct question I asked him in the forums, even if they were just links to stupid stuff on the internet. Eventually I found the courage to email him directly, and we developed an online acquaintance, his graciousness always shining through. I became even closer with his right hand man from the forums, the sheriff Bryan Russell (Ink), who has given me so much help with my writing I don't know if I'll ever be able to repay him, even featuring some of my creative writing on his blog in the form of some flash fiction pieces (see the "my writing" page above if you would like to take a look).

I was full of hope, optimism and drive to get my novel published, and I dreamed of one day being ready to query Nathan properly and have such a brilliant human being represent my endeavors into publishing. So when I saw that Nathan was leaving agenting, I was devastated. I spent a couple hours feeling sorry for myself. Then I wondered about Bryan, suspecting, as I did, that Nathan unofficially represented him.

I wrote to Bryan, and we discussed it a little bit, and I thought about it more and I realized that I was being foolish. Of course Nathan is an amazing guy, and I'm sure that every writer he ever took on as a client would tell you that it was a pleasure to work with him, but really publishing is just a business. Your agent does not need to be your best friend. Any literary agent with connections, who is professional, and who shares your vision for the story you want to tell can represent your work. Nathan taught me that there are agents out there who are kind and giving, but he also taught me that they don't need to be placed on a pedestal.

I asked him once if he thought it would be appropriate to query agents using a little joke for my genre description. I was worried they would be insulted. He basically asked me if I would really want to work with someone who was that uptight. He had a damn good point.

So I've gone on and on now about myself and how personally affected I was by all of this but that is not what I had intended for this post to be about. First, I want to wish Nathan the best in all his endeavors. He is going to work for CNET, where he is going to help them coordinate a social media strategy. They picked a pretty good guy for that position.

Nathan is also still going to keep writing books, and he will keep the blog and forums going strong. He remains ever impassioned about books, reading, writing, and publishing, and will always continue to keep us all up to date on the newest developments in e-books.

Secondly, and truly foremost, I would like to thank Nathan for everything he has done for me, and for writers everywhere. Finding his blog and becoming encouraged again changed my life. I can't conceive of how one person could possibly find the time to do so much, and be so giving, and compassionate. He's probably too humble to ever admit it, but I believe that Nathan has touched thousands of writers in similar ways, so I just want to say that here is one man who sees it.

Thank you for everything you do Nathan.

Up with orange and monkeys, and down with mosquitoes and the Lakers!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'm Here

I'm here today. I had to stay home this morning to get the kids ready for school because Kelly is out of town. So I just got to work at 8:15, leaving me no time to write a proper post.

I'll be back tomorrow. For now have a great Monday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Humble Thank You

I just want to thank everyone for being so understanding and encouraging about yesterday's post. It was really tough to share that experience now because although I did used to share a lot of bad old queries on my blog, they were pretty much all put up long before anyone actually read the thing.

Now I have a lot of readers, and a bit of a reputation for actually knowing something about queries, so it's pretty nerve wracking to expose the sensitive, ignorant roots of the man behind the curtain. I mean the truth is the truth, and I'm not ashamed to admit to it, but it's a little harder to do when you're doing it to 30 or so people at once.

So thank you all, very much, and thanks to Emily for putting the whole thing together. I hope we all had a laugh, even if a slightly uncomfortable one, but even more so I hope exposing my mistakes may someday help some other writer avoid making the same ones.


Now, it's Friday, so on to something much more fun. Here are some silly neologisms. Some are real words with altered meanings, other are ... neologisms:
  • Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
  • Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
  • Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
  • Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
  • Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
  • Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
  • Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
  • Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
  • Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
  • Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
  • Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
  • Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
  • Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
  • Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
  • Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
  • Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
  • Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
  • Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
  • Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
  • Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole!
No, I didn't make these up, but I stole them from several different places.

Thanks. Happy Friday. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


GWA stands for Goober Writers Anonymous. It's the brainchild of Emily White and an occasional feature over on her blog, Emily's Playhouse.

You all know how hard I brake for support groups, so I had to jump on this one. Today I will be posting about pretty much the most ignorant noob writer mistake I ever made. It was almost two years ago now. It's pretty embarrassing, but if you can't laugh at yourself you're probably not ready for the sea of rejection that attempting to get published will bring anyway. So I soldier on.

I won't go into it anymore here. Just head over to see the post.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Step Eight

Hi. My name is Matthew and I'm a blogaholic.

I love it that even on the morrow after election night, when I have so much I would love to say, but will not do so here, I can use one of these posts to make fun of myself instead.

Today I am on Step Eight.

Make a list of all persons I have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them.

Well the main people I have harmed with my writing and blogging are the literary agents I queried before I was really ready (see the label queries/rejections), who therefore had to endure my ignorance, and the other bloggers I used to bother with my shameless self promotions in the comments. So yeah. Sorry about that.

I won't really be making any amends to them. Except maybe to keep writing, improve my craft, and perhaps one day be good enough to get published. Maybe.

Soon I may share about Step Nine.

Disclaimer: This post is satirical. It is not meant to offend anyone, or to belittle the integrity of 12 Step Programs anywhere, which have saved countless lives since their inception.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nightshade City Review

Today I will be reviewing Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner. I finished the book over a week ago and have wanted to write and tell you all about it ever since but work and life have been getting in the way a bit lately. This post may end up being a little long, so I won't be sharing another picture of Hilary or the beautiful cover, but I've written about this book before, with pictures, so please see here, here or here if you are curious.

Nightshade City is a Middle Grade adventure story about a subterranean society of rats. I won't go into the plot here, because I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but suffice it to say that there is intrigue, espionage, and political infighting aplenty between the two factions within the rat culture.

One of my very favorite things about this novel is the characters. Their personalities, their voices, their quirks, and their appearances really jump off the page at you. This book is written for children, and the language, voice and writing style is certainly direct enough for them, but there is also a subtle skill with description that really drew me in, even as an adult. Here is an example of what I mean, from when we first mean one of the main characters, Clover:

She was quite lovely, with smooth cocoa skin, and light fur, buff in color and downy soft, more suited for a snow hare than a rat. She had a short, rounded nose and a sculpted, refined muzzle. Eyes the color of citrine offered up various hues of yellowy brilliance, round and open. Despite her beauty, she had an approachable sweetness, modest and shy.

I hope that illustrates my point well enough. Hilary obviously knows her rats. She describes several of them in a similar manner throughout the book, and I must say that one of the things I was most impressed with was her ability to use a different comparison every single time to convey the appearance or color of a particular rat's fur. It's delightful.

Another thing I enjoyed a great deal was the wealth of characters and their truly original names. We've already met Clover, of course, but there is also Juniper, Vincent, Victor, Mistress (or Mother) Gallo, Suttor, Carn, Julius, Cole, Oard, Noc, Lali, Texi, Ragan and Ulrich from the good side. These names are very original and perfectly suited, but I think you'll agree they are slightly outdone by the incredibly clever names of the evil characters. There is Major Lithgo, Major Foiber, Major Schnauss, and of course, the highly detailed and complexly sympathetic leaders, Killdeer, and one of the most memorable villains from children's literature, at least for me, Billycan.

Hilary does an excellent job of sprinkling in just enough backstory in the right places so that we know and understand the characters. We don't get it for everyone, but we do get it for everyone who matters. The pacing is perfect and I love how she weaves three or four different main characters' storylines in such a way that we end up with several great protagonists.

I could go on, instead I will just recommend this book. If you have children who enjoy animal adventures in the vein of Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows, then this book is an absolute must have. If you're just an adult who loves to read and thinks they would enjoy a fun adventure full of adorably charming characters, then I can certainly highly recommend this book.